New exhibit features designers and textile artists from around the world
Materiality: Art, Fashion, Craft opens May 1
by Melissa Jacobs
Garments in lead photo by Amanda Maria Forastieri
Main Line Art Center is about to turn its galleries into runways. The Haverford center’s new exhibit – “Materiality: Art, Fashion, Craft” – features clothes and accessories created by artists from the Main Line, Philadelphia and around the world. “Materiality” will be on display from May 1 to June 9 and celebrated at Cocktails & Couture, a fundraiser filled with fashion, music and art on May 6.
“We invite everyone to the biggest fashion event of the season,” said Lisa Getz, co-executive director of Main Line Art Center. “Cocktails and Couture is the Art Center’s largest in-person fundraiser since the pandemic and supports our accessible art programs for artists with disabilities, outreach programs, tuition free classes, need based scholarships, and exhibitions.”
Getz encouraged guests to attend Cocktails & Couture wearing their best creative cocktail attire. “We are very excited to welcome the community into our galleries in support of our mission to inspire and engage people of all ages, abilities, and economic means in visual art through education, exhibitions, and experiences,” she said.
“Materiality” features a gown and its understructure created by Narberth’s Frank Agostino, scarves from Korean textile artist Chunghie Lee, one-of-a-kind bags and shoes from Loyalty Leather, 11-foot long T-shirts from Albanian-born designer Bela Shehu, AutumnLin Kietponglert’s sculptural pieces made completely from zippers, and Rareform’s bags made from upcycled billboards.
(Zippered top by AutumnLin Kietponglert, bracelets and necklace by Marie Eife)
Curated by Roberta H. Gruber, who lived in Havertown for 30 years before relocating to Center City, the exhibit features 12 mannequins wearing garments, illustrations and textiles on the wall, and pieces suspended from the ceilings of Main Line Art Center.
“I invited people who deserved to be exhibited not just as fashion, but as art,” Gruber explained. “The craft within the pieces is very important. It’s about the quality and the beauty of the work, and inspiring us to look at these things in a new way.”
Gruber started her career in wearable art, then designed couture and ready-to-wear. For 35 years, she was a professor at Drexel University, and served as director of the design and merchandising program. When she retired in 2020, Gruber was head of the department of design of Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.
Several of the artists in “Materiality” are Gruber’s former students, including Nancy Volpe Beringer, the Philadelphia fashion designer who was a “Project Runway” finalist. Volpe Beringer is known for the inclusivity and sustainability of her garments, and her pieces in “Materiality” are no exception. “Nancy’s pieces are created out of beautiful fabrications and move on the body like fluid, with a beautiful shine,” Gruber said. “She’s also done a great deal of fabric manipulation. One looks like a sculpture. The other is designed for someone in a wheelchair.”
Charlie Kenney is another Gruber student showcased in “Materiality.” Kenney’s medieval but modern knitwear (pictured) is striking. “It looks like something out of ‘Game of Thrones’ that you could wear,” Gruber said. “Charlie is super creative and I was thrilled to see this hand knitting and machine knitting. It’s gorgeous.”
Most, but not all, of the pieces on display at Main Line Art Center are for sale. Gruber said that the forward-thinking exhibit will appeal to the Main Line crowd, even those who are not daring with their own fashion. “A full range of ideas, materials, concepts and techniques will be on display,” Gruber said. “It will open people’s eyes to new colors, shapes and forms. Even if you don’t wear it, you’ll appreciate it as art.”
“Main Line Art Center is honored to be working with Roberta and all of the talented artists on this exhibition,” Getz said. “It is the first of its kind here at the Art Center and will attract a whole new audience. Art and fashion have always been dependent on one another, in a good way, and the work in the exhibition really showcases that.”
Main Line Tonight is proud to be the digital media sponsor for Cocktails & Couture. Get your tickets at this link. For information about the exhibit, click here.
Want to read other style stories? Read about milliners Tiffany Arey and Zoya Egan, and Paoli sneaker designer Darrell Alston.
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